The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
(I John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35)
A well-published biblical scholar once ignited a holy man’s ire by calling John’s letters “New Testament baby-talk.” The scholar only meant to say that John’s letters possess simplicity and directness as if they were written for children. We see this in today’s first reading. “Whoever loves his brother remains in the light...,” John writes, “Whoever hates his brother remains in darkness...”
John does not have enemy-love in mind here as if he were challenging Christians to love those who hate them. Nor does he mean that they have to necessarily love blood brothers and sisters. He is simply reiterating Jesus’ commandment to his community of disciples that they love one another. It may sound easy, but hard feelings can sprout when humans associate closely. They will feel frustration, envy, and even enmity with one another at times. John is saying that Christians must overcome these troublesome sentiments.
John would be oversimplifying if he meant that we may limit our love to love those with whom we associate. But certainly such love teaches toleration, respect, and compassion so that we in turn may love even those who hate us.